AFL Day 1: Star of the Day/more on Japanese pitching

Gotta love the start of the Arizona Fall League season. I’ve done this in year’s past and, sadly, haven’t always kept up with it. But I’m going to give it a shot. Each day I’m going to award 2 Star of the Day Awards, one for a hitter and one for a pitcher, based on the previous day’s performances.

But first, some more info on the Japanese pitchers who are playing in the AFL. I wrote a story about the quintet of arms who came over from NPB (This does not include Ryohei Tanaka, who started for the Phoenix Desert Dogs on Tuesday; he was with Double-A Bowie in the Orioles system in 2009). I reached out to some scouts in Asia and was able to get a little more information on some of the arms other than what I talked about in the story.

Hiroshi Katayama: A scout other than the one I spoke to for the story feels he’s never been able to show an ability to be consistent on the mound. But he pointed out he’s a really good hitter and perhaps should convert to being a position player.

Toshiyuki Yanuki: The 25-year-old was drafted from an industrial league team and was a rookie this past year. He tops out at 92 mph and throws a curve. He needs to improve his fastball command if he wants to have a career in the Japanese big leagues.

Takanobu Tsujiuchi: The lefty can crank it up to 95-mph, but a stiff body has led to injury issues. If he can stay healthy, he’s one to watch.

Tooru Murata: Scouts haven’t seen him much since he hasn’t gotten to pitch a lot in the Minor Leagues. The scout I spoke to saw him in college, three years ago, but didn’t like his lack of command. He did toss a perfect inning in relief for Scottsdale on Tuesday. He pitched in the Hawaiian League in 2006.

OK, on to the STARS OF THE DAY

Hitter

Ike Davis, 1B, Rafters (Mets): He played at two levels. Then he helped Team USA win theike.jpg gold medal in the IBAF World Cup in Europe. After a brief rest, he picked up right where he left off on Tuesday. Hitting third and playing first for Surprise, he went 4-for-6 with a grand slam off 2009 draftee Andy Oliver, two doubles and a single. Oh, and he drove in six. Guess he’s happy to be back in Arizona, where he played for three years at ASU

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Pitcher

bierd.jpgRandor Bierd, RHP, Solar Sox (Red Sox): This one wasn’t as clear cut to me as the hitting nod, with several pitchers impressing on Day 1 (I was tempted to go with Sergio Santos, who tossed two scoreless innings in relief and struck out three while hitting 96 mph on the gun. Not bad for a converted shortstop). But, in the end, it’s hard not to go with Bierd, who started and won for Mesa against Phoenix and put up three hitless innings. He only struck out one, but he also only walked one.

If you have any nominations for AFL Stars of the Day, please let me know. I’ll always consider alternatives. And if you happen to go out there, if you send me your first-person reports, I’ll post them here on the blog.

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